American Airlines has outsourced more than 40 jobs at Kansas City International Airport, essentially wiping out the last remnants of its union workforce in the area that once numbered in the thousands.
By STEVE EVERLY
The Kansas City Star
The move, completed this month, involved 42 fleet services workers who were mainly cargo and baggage handlers. Some transferred to jobs at other airports or took early retirement. The rest took layoffs with recall rights, hoping that a potential merger between US Airways and American would improve their chances of eventually getting the jobs back.
Employees at several airports besides KCI were affected after the airline, which is reorganizing under bankruptcy protection, got the court’s permission to raise the threshold of flights into an airport that required the airline to use union workers for the jobs.
Baggage handler jobs, for example, would stay union as long as American had at least seven scheduled flights a day. That number was raised to 15, which allowed the airline at airports such as KCI to outsource the jobs to companies that use non-union employees.
“What they couldn’t get at the negotiating table they took at the bankruptcy court,” said Sean Doyle, president of Local 512 of the Transport Workers Union, the affected workers’ union.
The airline said contracting out the jobs allowed it to align its costs with the industry while preserving American’s more complex jobs.
Airline Terminal Services of St. Louis and PrimeFlight Aviation Services of Nashville are now providing the workers for the flight services jobs. Doyle said he had heard they were being paid $8.50 an hour with no benefits. Most of the union’s baggage and cargo handlers workers received $21 an hour plus benefits.
Airline Terminal and PrimeFlight, which provide a range of services for airports and airlines, did not respond to requests for comments.
The cuts in Kansas City began before the company filed for bankruptcy protection, including at its now closed former TWA maintenance base. When American Airlines acquired TWA in 2001 it had 2,500 jobs here, with most employees belonging to a union.
The only American Airlines employees now working in Kansas City are up to 35 ticket and customer service agents at KCI who along with the airline’s other agents could soon vote on whether to join a union.